On a recent Dice Tower Episode (#189), Tom Vasel and Eric Summerer each made top 10 lists of the games that they play with their wives. As I was listening, I couldn’t help but think, “Hey! I play games with my wife too!”, so I talked to Gwen over the last week or so and we put together this list.
Before I jump into it, though, let me set the stage a little bit. Gwen is not the stereotypical “non-gamer wife” by any stretch of the imagination. She also wouldn’t exactly claim the title of being a true “gamer”, but she probably falls a lot closer to that side of the spectrum than the other. Back before we had kids and when my game night was young, she was actually a regular member, even though it stressed her out a little to have to learn new games all the time. She is also rather competitive (more than I am, anyway) or at least very perfectionistic (meaning that it’s probably more about her doing well rather than about her beating me). But she is also extremely intelligent, so she’s usually able to pick up on games and do well with them very quickly (though not always quick enough to satisfy her perfectionistic needs).
We like a lot of different games, from some light fillers all the way up to some deeply strategic games. My favorites to play with her are probably those that have a little less direct competition, because I can do without the marital discord that it sometimes causes. But otherwise, we mostly just appreciate a good game, and occasionally the peaceful moment around the house when we can get it to the table.
The list itself is actually a combination of both Gwen’s and my favorites. So hopefully it reflects the games that have meant the most to us as a couple over the last few years. And interestingly enough, none of the games are actually 2-player-only games.
So, without further ado, here’s my Top 10 Games That I Play With My Wife:
10) The Pillars of the Earth – A game of Pillars with Gwen was the subject of my very first play report here at GamerChris.com, and we’ve played it a number of times since then. I wrote a review of it early on, but have almost completely changed my mind about it since then. We’ve always had fun with it, and I like it enough that I hope to get it back in our regular play rotation.
9) Peloponnes – This is one of the newest games on the list, and I was frankly a little surprised that Gwen likes it as much as she does. Peloponnes is a game where you will not make it through unscathed, and both of us have been quite frustrated at times by the complications that it throws at us. But it’s still compelling and quick enoughto keep us interested and coming back for more. As I mentioned in my review, I think that the 2-player game couled probably benefit from loosening up the auction a little bit, but it’s still a lot of fun either way.
8) The Settlers of Catan – We don’t actually play a lot of Settlers any more, but for a while it was our most-played game. We usually used Nick Borko’s 2-player variant in our games together, which I think works really well. Eventually, though, Gwen got tired of the random screwage from the dice, and our interest waned. Recently, however, she’s mentioned getting it back to the table, so maybe it will find some new life.
7) If Wishes Were Fishes – I think I remember bringing home the Hypermind store copy of this game for our first play, and both of us immediately fell in love with it. As I mention in my review, “Fishy Wishy” (as we affectionately refer to it) has a depth far beyond what it’s cartoony presentation would normally indicate. There is a really cool little market-manipulation element to the game, and room for at least 2 or 3 viable strategies that you can pursue. And since Gwen and I tend to take different paths, it’s always cool to see which one will reign supreme!
6) Cartagena – Cartagena is one of my favorite fillers anyway, but I think that it really works well as a 2-player game. It becomes a lot more strategic than with more players, because you can better predict and account for the actions of your single opponent. But the game is still light and quick enough (and has enough randomness with the card draw) that it never becomes a brain-burny slog.
5) Goa – Goa is also very new to us, but it has already jumped way up in this list. Not only is it a great game with lots of different strategy to explore, but it also has just the right amount of interaction between players. You still have a little struggle against each other in the auction, but most of the game is all about the choices you individually make in advancing your development tracks and spending your actions. I actually rated it second on my individual list, and really hope that it continues to be a regular part of our gaming together.
4) 10 Days in… – Numbers don’t lie, and when I considered that we’ve played the games from this series a combined 74 times, I realized that it had to be way up here on this list. The 10 Days system isn’t all that deep, and it certainly relies a lot on luck, but it also consistently provides an interesting challenge in a very short time. And once you know what you’re doing, you find that there are ways to mitigate the luck of the tile draws and make it a bit more strategic. The majority of our plays are with the original 10 Days in the USA (probably because we’re most familiar with it and its geography), but I think that Asia (our second-most-played) is the best mechanically. We own the entire series, though, and love to introduce it to newer gamers. I’m planning on writing a review of the whole series sometime soon, but I also want to try out the 20 Days Around the World variant (which combines all the games except for USA) first.
3) Ticket to Ride – Ticket to Ride may be the single most important game on this list. Mostly,&n
bsp;it’s because this is the game that got Gwen interested in modern boardgames. It also holds a really special place in our hearts because it was the main thing which occupied our minds throughout the weekend when we had our miscarriage. But along with all that, we also still continue to have a lot of fun playing it together. More often than not, we play using the “Mega Game” from the 1910 expansion, but I also like to play with the Switzerland map quite a bit.
2) Tobago – I got Tobago for Christmas last year, and we played it 8 times in the first 7 days we had it. This was Gwen’s overall #1 game on her personal list, and it continues to be a lot of fun every time that we play it alone or with others. The only downside that I see in the game is that we tend to play this in a very cutthroat manner. You don’t necessarily have to play it that way, but unlike Ticket to Ride, which you can play very much as multi-player solitaire (which we usually do), Tobago really pushes you to get involved and meddle with what your opponent is doing. I don’t need to go into a lot more detail about it though, because you can always check out my review for more of our thougts about it.
1) Pandemic – As many of you probably already know, Pandemic is my favorite game. Thankfully, Gwen likes it a lot as well, and over the last couple of years, we’ve played it upwards of 40 or 50 times together. In addition to all of the reasons that I love the game itself, I think what makes it really perfect for couples in particular is that you completely avoid any chance of hard feelings during and after the game. It gives you a chance to work together against an outside force, to watch out for each other, and to win or lose as a team. And at the same time, the game always plays out differently, especialy with the addition of the On the Brink expansion.
A shot from my 100th game of Pandemic, in which Gwen and I lost by 1 action…
And while the games above are our all-time favorites, they are by no means all that we play together. Here are some of the other games that we’ve played at least a time or two (it’s not an exhaustive list, though):
The Princes of Florence
Vasco da Gama
1960: The Making of the President
To Court the King
The Settlers of Catan Card Game
Roll Through the Ages
Through the Desert
7 ate 9
Carcassonne (on the iPod only)
Samurai (iPod and “for real”)
The aMAZEing Labyrinth
Tier auf Tier
Archaeology: The Card Game
Catan Dice Game
Ticket to Ride: The Card Game